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‘Super Trouper’: ABBA’s Shining Start To The 80s

After the 70s party, ‘Super Trouper’ boasted introspective ballads such as ‘The Winner Takes It All’, finding ABBA retooling themselves for a new decade.

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The distance between the Voulez-Vous and Super Trouper albums cannot be measured just by the 19 months that separated the two releases. At the dawn of a new decade, ABBA stood at a crossroads – both creatively and as a working team. 1979’s news that Björn Ulvaeus and Agnetha Fältskog had split sparked alarm about the future of the world’s biggest pop group.

Super Trouper’s lead single – the classic ballad ‘The Winner Takes It All’, released in the summer of 1980 – likely did little to allay those fears, even though Björn denies that the track is autobiographical. Behind the scenes, however, as recording for the album was in full swing, Benny Andersson and Frida Lyngstad’s own marriage had also hit trouble, with a separation already in place as the LP first hit the shops, on 3 November 1980.

Listen to Super Trouper on Apple Music and Spotify.

Their personal lives aside, the music scene had moved on too. Disco was on the slide, particularly in the US, where the ABBA phenomenon had never properly caught light, and Europe was increasingly in thrall to the mannered theatrics of new wave. ABBA’s response was to pare back the party. It really was time to call that cab after the euphoric rush of Voulez-Vous.

Across a tight 10 tracks, Super Trouper is like a greatest hits sampler, showcasing all the styles that made the group so successful. ‘The Winner Takes It All’, regularly voted the people’s favourite ABBA record, and a Top 10 hit in every major market, is the ballad that they never truly bettered. Drenched in pathos, it featured Agnetha’s greatest vocal performance and has been claimed as her favourite ABBA track.

The ballads dominate the album. ‘Happy New Year’, once earmarked for wide single release until the title track emerged, is a melancholic choker that effortlessly captures that messy moment when the clock strides midnight. ‘Our Last Summer’ again bathes us in a sentimental haze of melancholia; no one does happy-sad songs as well as ABBA, and the schlager foundations underpinning so much of their work are very evident here.

On ‘Super Trouper’, the last track to be recorded, but released as the album’s second single, the band’s classic European pop sound found its latter-day peak. In the UK, it proved to be their ninth, and final, chart-topper to date.

But it wasn’t all doom and gloom. The exuberant roar of the dance classic ‘Lay All Your Love On Me’ showed the band still knew how to get us out of our seats. This ahead-of-its-time anthem topped the Billboard dance charts and still fills floors to this day. Lighter fare such as ‘Andante Andante’ and ‘Me And I’, meanwhile, proved that the standard album material ABBA produced remained leagues ahead of the competition.

Live track ‘The Way Old Friends Do’, lifted from their 1979 tour, closed Super Trouper and, in many ways, sums up the mood of the record. With personal and professional turbulence surrounding them, the four-piece retrenched into a safe place – focusing on simpler pop sounds familiar to the faithful. In time, the urge for experimentation would return but, for now, they remained content to be fixed in the spotlight that gave the album its name… just as long as the beam was a bit dimmer.

After all, it had been one hell of a party…

Super Trouper can be bought here.

Listen to the best of ABBA on Apple Music and Spotify.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. K

    November 3, 2018 at 4:13 pm

    Excellent review of Super Trouper. Die Hard ABBA fans refer to “Voulez-Vous”, “Super Trouper”, and “The Visitors” as their Holy Trinity. Well done.

  2. Colin

    November 8, 2019 at 6:33 pm

    The ‘Super Trouper’ Album was the 1st Album in UK Chart History to have 1 Million Advance
    Orders. The Title Track is actually ABBA’s 2nd Best Selling Uk Single. The Official Charts
    Company said it had sold 978,000 UK copies, to April 2019. Beaten only by ‘Dancing Queen’, which
    has over 1,550,000 UK Sales. 3rd is ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’, with 973,000 UK Sales. ABBA had
    no intentions of lifting a 3rd Single off ‘Super Trouper’,but a USa DJ Remixed and Extended ‘Lay
    All Your Love On Me’ and released it on 12 Inch Vinyl. ABBA allowed their original version to be
    a Single in some Countries, but it was only on expensive 12 Inch Vinyl. ABBA neither Remixed nor
    Extended their 12 Inch, so it was just seen as a 7 Inch Single, at twice the cost of the rest of
    the Singles in the Charts. It was seen as very poor value for money. Which is why it struggled
    to be the Hit that it should have been. It stalled at No.7 in the UK. It was the first 12 Inch
    only Single to reach the UK Top 10, but it was also ABBA’s first Single to miss the Top 5 since
    1975. It would easily have been a UK Top 5 Hit, had it only been released on normal priced 7 Inch Vinyl. ABBA cheated themselves out of a huge Hit. In the normally loyal German Record
    Market, it only reached No.26. It is very sad, really, that such a great ABBA Track, struggled
    to sell well, because it was seen as an over-priced, 12 Inch ‘Rip-Off’…

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